Thomas Duckmanton at White City Stadium

When war was declared in August 1914 Thomas was most probably 18 years of age and working as a coal miner in a local colliery. Since he was living at No 3 Carr Lane, Warsop with his 'parents', Samuel and Eliza Duckmanton, he would almost certainly have been working at the newly opened Warsop Main colliery as this was within walking distance.

Before I move on I need to clear up the issue of Thomas' parents. As far as I am aware no birth certificate has ever been found for Thomas and I know my brother Melvyn has put a lot of effort into looking for it. The 1901 census tells us that a 4 year old Thomas was living at No 3 Carr Lane with his grandparents Samuel (58) and Eliza (53). Ten years later the 1911 census tells us that Samuel (now 68) and Eliza (now 63) are still living at the same address with their son Thomas who is now 15 years old. Confused? I bet Thomas was too. I promise we will return to this problem later, keep a box of tissues handy.

Your Country Needs You

At the start of the Great War the fighting force consisted of regular soldiers with reservists being called upon when required. Conscription wasn't introduced until March 1916. Additional troops were obtained by appealing for volunteers. As more and more soldiers were drawn into the fighting, the government had to come up with yet more ways to encourage people to volunteer. Many of these involved recruitment teams travelling to different parts of the country and appealing directly to specific groups of people. 'Pals' Battalions were formed in which all the men had a common background, a town, a football club or even a school, public schools were well represented. Thomas would have seen some of these, but at the start of the war he was too young to respond to the call. He would be allowed to join up at 18, but could not be sent abroad until he was 19 years old.

It is impossible to know what made him take the next step. It might have been the Kitchener posters, or just a particularly good talk by a recruitment team, but on Saturday 20th March, 1915 Thomas Duckmanton walked into the army recruiting office in Mansfield and signed up for Short Service in the Grenadier Guards. By my calculations he would have been two or three weeks short of his 19th birthday at the time. This would mean that he could join up and start his training in England, but would be unable to join the British Expeditionary Force in France. Once again we are left wondering what actually went on that day. Did Thomas believe he had to be 19 in order to join? Did he think he would be sent abroad straight away? Whatever the reason, he gave his age as 19 years, 345 days.

The enlistment forms also contain the name of his next of kin, it reads 'Thomas Duckmanton, 45 Leaming Lane, Mansfield Woodhouse, Notts' and gives the relationship as 'Father'. This is the first and only time that we see documentary evidence of the fact that my great grandfather, John Thomas Duckmanton is the father of Thomas. Time to get the tissues out.

The following day, Sunday 21st March, 1915, 23483 Private Thomas Duckmanton finds himself in The White City Exhibition Grounds in London, scene of the 1908 Olympic Games. Having been taken over by the War Office as an army training centre for new recruits, this famous sporting venue will only see Thomas playing war games. As far as I can tell from the records to which I have access, Thomas was to remain in The White City for just over a year. I like to think that he would have had the opportunity to go back to Nottinghamshire every now and then and visit his parents

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